WITH LESS than 60 days of the SSE Airtricity League season remaining, Declan Devine has issued a very simple message to his Derry City players as the race for European football remains in their own hands ahead of Friday's trip to Waterford.
“If we win seven games, we’ll be in Europe,” he pointed out matter-of-factly as he prepared for the 10 hour round-trip to the RCS.
Whether they can achieve that or not with four home games and three away games left, remains to be seen but Devine believes it’s achievable and he’s demanded his players ‘up their game’ to give themselves every chance.
The Candy Stripes are in the final straight in the race for European qualification and with Bohemians travelling to Tallaght to face in-form Shamrock Rovers on Friday night, victory over Waterford at the RSC could prove significant in the battle for third.
The Gypsies are currently three points better off and currently occupy that coveted third position, however, Keith Long’s men still must travel to the Ryan McBride Brandywell Stadium on September 20th.
“All we need to do now is make sure we up our game,” said Devine. “We have 60 days left over the course of a nine months season.
“There’s going to be twists and turns,” he predicted. “The potential is that in a couple of weeks time Bohs will be three, four or six points ahead of us with us not having a game coming into the League Cup Final. That’s grand.
“We’ve got to take care of ourselves. Whatever Bohs do is irrelevant in many ways. If we win every game between now and the end of the season we’ll be in Europe. It’s as simple as that. If we win seven games, we’ll be in Europe,” he reiterated.
“If we don’t win seven games then it becomes important what other teams around you are doing. But there’s no reason why we can’t win seven games.
"Four of them are at home, three are away. This is the first one of them (at Waterford) and we’ve got to make sure we win it.”
Waterford have yet to record victory over Derry this season having lost three - including a 4-2 extra-time defeat in the EA Sports Cup semi-final - and drawn one.
That 2-2 draw on Easter Monday during Derry’s last visit to the RSC still ‘sticks in the throat’ of the Candy Stripes boss as a late, late Shane Duggan penalty secured an unlikely point for the home side, just moments after a Darren Cole thunderbolt looked to have handed City all three points.
If the race for third is decided on small margins, Devine will look back on that result as one which has proved costly.
“One of the things that sticks in my throat is that we went 2-1 up down there the last time on Easter Monday. And having went 2-1 with a last minute goal from Darren Cole we then gave away a needless penalty and ultimately that cost us two points.
“As I said at the start of the season, every point is going to count. If we had those two points now we would be in a much healthier position.
“So every point is critical. We get the same amount of points for beating Waterford away as we do beating Shamrock Rovers at home so we’ve got to go down with the right mindset and work extremely hard.
“We know they are capable on their day of turning us over but we’ve got to make sure that our game-plan is executed and we go there with a real determination and focus and try to bring three points back up the road again.”